Fifth Sunday of Easter — Music Notes

May 14, 2017 (Year A) | Becoming One With Christ
by Rev. Jackson Henry

Order of Worship Preaching Hymns Music  Planning Formation Groups Resources

Big House

Audio Adrenaline both wrote this song and made it well known in Christian rock circles in the 1990s. “Big House” speaks of the invitation to join God in the ongoing journey of salvation, but it does so with modern images and a conversational tone. The best format to use in singing this modern worship song is to have a soloist sing the verses, with the soloist and congregation singing the chorus together. The rhythm is very syncopated, so keep in mind other ways to introduce this song--play a recording of this at church meetings and functions to make it known before the congregation encounters it in worship. Accompany with either a solo guitar, full band, or any size ensemble in between. The ideal key is G.

Love Has Come

Best used as a solo, “Love Has Come” offers a song in which the congregation can sing the chorus and bridge. I would not recommend the verses for congregational singing because of a lack of melodic contour and rhythmic syncopation. The chorus and bridge, however, are accessible, and the bridge has a building, repetitive quality that can be used to foster singing in the midst of the distribution of Holy Communion. It might even be appropriate for the worship leader to add text (not by projection or in print) by calling out new bridge texts that are somewhat more Wesleyan in relation to the ongoing understanding of salvation through sanctification. One option would be, “Spirit, fill my heart.” Allow the worship team to be creative in coming up with options, but realize that it is not legal to alter the songs in print or on screen. The Communion distribution is a perfect time to approach texts with a call-and-response format because people are moving with no books, bulletins, or other materials in hand. The ideal key for congregational singing is G.

And Can It Be (UMH 363)

Simply put, this spiritual-autobiographical hymn is one of the greatest hymns of Charles Wesley, written most likely shortly after his conversion. The narrative of being enchained to sin (in a dungeon, nonetheless!) and then liberated has long informed Methodists of the pain of sin, the joy of the heart-freeing liberation of Christ, and the boldness claimed in knowing and feeling the joy of salvation. The first stanza begins with the word “and,” which makes it seem like other thoughts preceded these. One could make the argument, then, that this is an opening for a discussion on prevenient grace and the conversation that comes before the question, “and can it be that I should gain…?” SAGINA is a very popular tune, especially with British Methodists, but this tune has not been quite as widely supported in North America. If your church has never sung this hymn because of the tune, rest assured there is a solution that proves quite dramatic if sung confidently: Sing to the tune HE LEADETH ME instead, which I have found to be a setting well suited to the drama and emotion in the text. Download this text with the WEXFORD CAROL tune »

Abide with Me (UMH 700)

This text by Henry F. Lyte connects themes of evening and death within a tune, EVENTIDE, by W. H. Monk, that creates a setting of comfort and peace. If your church choir is considering singing more works a cappella, “Abide with Me” is a wonderful place to start to give confidence, especially if your worship space is an acoustically rich environment. Being sensitive to the joining of the text and tune, however, it is vitally important to encourage the choir to sing in broad, four-measure phrases. The first stanza provides the most stumbling blocks by including the first word, “abide,” on a long half note (which also happens in the second phrase with the word, “the”). For this reason, make sure the choir grows through those words so the correct syllabic emphasis is achieved. The organ is the ideal accompaniment on this hymn, although using soft piano, gently arpeggiated guitar, or a cappella singing are also encouraged. Read History of Hymns: "Abide with Me" »

Who Is My Mother, Who Is My Brother? (TFWS 2225)

Liturgically, we encourage the use of this hymn of unity responsively during the prayers of the people. The gentle nature of the tune lends itself to accompaniment with a soft instrument, whether it is organ, piano, or solo guitar. A worship band could even take a look at this strophic hymn that would not feel quite as hymn-like when used as is recommended in the liturgy this week. Let the tune continue softly underneath the readings. Also feel free to invite a solo wind or string instrument to double the voices. Read History of Hymns: "Who Is My Mother, Who is My Brother?" »

Christ Is Risen

Matt Maher has created an interesting song that departs from traditional hymns, but the language of the sting of death and victory of hell (the grave) is still present here. He finishes the questioning of sin and death by offering an invitation to the church to “stand in the light.” Christ is Risen may be sung with piano or guitar only, but full band is preferable. The original key (Gb) is good for singing, but is not the best for many bands. In addition, the bridge gets quite high for almost all congregations to sing. Singing this in E puts a lot of notes around the vocal break for most people, so my recommendation is the key of D, but this, in turn, makes the rest of the song quite low.

Blessed Assurance  (UMH 369)

This favorite hymn across stylistic and cultural lines is paired with one of the most rousing tunes in hymnody. In addition to the tune and its swinging rhythm, one of the  greatest elements is the personal way this hymn relates with the singer: “This is my story, this is my song.” Some things to note, however--the themes of submission and rapture can be fairly tricky, both theologically and culturally, so take some time to reflect upon how you might address these if a curious congregation member questions you about them. Accompany with organ, piano, band, or any other ensemble. A number of settings of this hymn are available for handbells, choirs, and other instrumental ensembles. It won’t take long to find one that fits your needs. View and download a uniquie and enjoyable gospel piano accomanity by the previous Director of Music Resources, Dean McIntyre. Read History of Hymns: "Blessed Assurance" »

A Mother Lined a Basket (TFWS 2189)

Mary Nelson Keithahn has written this wonderful hymn of mothering that we include on this Mother’s Day. There are too few hymns that speak of women in the Bible, so this presents a great list of mothers from Scripture, including Jochebed (mother of Moses), Hannah (mother of Samuel), and Mary (mother of Jesus). A phonetic pronunciation of Jochebed is yahk-ih-bed. The tune is very well suited for congregational singing and is best accompanied by organ or piano. See more hymns that focus specifically on women »

Mystery of Faith

What a gem of a liturgical piece this modern worship song is! The chorus uses the words of the Memorial Acclamation to frame this atonement hymn. The primary concern is the use of fairly graphic “blood” language (“Your blood was spilled for us”), even though when used in relation to Holy Communion, the image is somewhat more relatable. The original key of B works fairly well, but the beginning of the bridge (“Let it rise, let it rise; with one voice we’re singing…”) should be sung by a soloist, not the entire congregation. Accompany with piano, guitar, or band.

Nearer, My God, to Thee (UMH 528)

Even though this hymn was written in 1841 and the tune written in 1856, an awareness of the poignancy of this hymn was rekindled when a string quartet played the tune on the sinking ship in the movie, Titanic. The text calls us to look ahead to a time when we are drawn closer to God. In Wesleyan terms, these words become a wonderful reflection of the process of sanctification and the journey toward Christian perfection. This hymn, however, is also used quite frequently at funerals and memorial services because of its focus on heaven. I have always enjoyed this joyful setting for choirs, but it does take time to prepare. Many other traditional arrangements also exist. The ideal accompaniment is organ, although an a cappella, four-part singing would also be most fitting. As the movie demonstrates, the tune itself also makes a lovely string quartet! Read History of Hymns: "Nearer, My God, to Thee" »

Lord, We Come to Ask Your Blessing (TFWS 2230)

Fred Pratt Green has crafted a beautiful statement of unity in this hymn, and the tune is aptly paired with it. If your congregation is not familiar with the SUGAR GROVE tune, it is worth teaching. However, if this is not an option where you are, another setting that supports the text is GALILEE (“Jesus Calls Us”), although I would caution singing it too rigidly and boisterously. Allow the plea to be made heard by approaching whatever tune you use lyrically, and provide an opportunity for this sung prayer to be embodied appropriately. The ideal accompaniment is piano. Take a moment to appreciate the keen piano writing on the last note, and savor it as “love that never ends.”

 

Categories: Year A, Fifth Sunday of Easter - May 14, 2017

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